British farmers need to invest to cope with climate change, NFU says

NFU vice president Guy Smith said climate change will increasingly pose serious challenges to Britain, but addressing it could bring bring significant opportunities for British business

Steve Parsons/PA Wire Flooded fields
Flooded fields

British agriculture needs to invest to ensure its future in the face of growing climate change, a farmers’ leader has said.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said climate change will increasingly pose serious challenges to Britain, but addressing it could bring bring significant opportunities for British business.

He was speaking after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on weather and climate change, which pointed to significant changes in temperatures and weather patterns in the future.

Mr Smith said farmers needed to recognise that both the weather and the markets are getting more volatile, making the the need to invest in farms to make them weatherproof essential.

He said: “In 2013 on my farm we had the wettest winter in living memory, the strongest winds since 1987, the highest tides since 1953. When you see all that come together in a short window you realise that maybe something is going on.

“This leads to a lack of confidence in agriculture as to what the future might hold, and my worry is that that may lead to a lack of investment in our farms just when we should be investing more in terms of weather proofing them.”

Professor David Walker, deputy chief medical Officer for England, said that the increasing frequency of heatwaves forecast for the future presented a particular risk to countries with an ageing population, like Britain.

“The 2003 heatwave saw 70,000 deaths in Europe more then would have been expected had that not happened, and 2,000 of those deaths were in the UK. If climate projections are realised in 30 or 40 years, 2003 would likely be an average summer in the UK.”

The event was chaired by Lord Adair Turner, who suggested that levels of uncertainty about the possible effects of climate change highlighted the need to take precautionary action to “exclude the nasty tails of the distribution”.

He said: “The cost of building a zero-carbon economy cannot possibly be more than a few percentage points of GDP forgone. That follows from every piece of analysis that anybody has done, that follows from the availability of the technologies to reduce the impacts of climate change and reduce emissions.”

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